Iran Election Guide

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Iran Live Coverage: Seizing the Children of the Detained Opposition Leaders

See also Syria & Iran Follow-Up: The Real Story of "Syria's Iran-Hezbollah 50,000-Man Militia" in 3 Easy Steps
Monday's Iran Live Coverage: "Viva Spring" --- Ahmadinejad Launches An Election Campaign

1845 GMT: The Battle Within. The "Council of Explaining Basij Student Positions of Greater Tehran" has warned President Ahmadinejad, Speaker of Parliament Ali Larijani, and head of judiciary Sadegh Larijani that they will be branded "traitors" if they continue their disputes.

The Council said that, if the disagreement persisted, "[We will] certainly confront you in the way that is suitable."

1805 GMT: Sanctions Watch. Russian Minister of Energy Alexander Novak has confirmed that large banks are not financing Iranian oil exports, although "small ones are".

Novak said, "Major banks are not involved as they have taken into consideration the possibility of any sanctions to which they might become subject."

The Minister, who spoke after meeting Iranian Foreign Ali Akbar Salehi in Moscow, declined to name either the banks involved or the scale and nature of their possible financing.

Salehi, in Moscow on a trade mission, said that Russian companies would be welcome to participate in development of Tehran's oil industry.

Over the last three years, Russian firms have pulled out of high-profile Iranian projects, including those in the South Pars energy field.

1750 GMT: A Panicked Regime? Paralleling our work and that of Golnaz Esfandiari (see 1535 GMT), Scott Peterson of the Christian Science Monitor asks, "Is Ahmadinejad Going Rogue as His Term Ends?", but it is his passage on the crackdown by others in the regime that catches the eye:

Analysts say the recent arrest and harassment of journalists and questioning this week of a son and daughters of key opposition leaders, who remain under house arrest, are just some of the signs of deep insecurity and uncertainty now afflicting the regime.

"Everybody expected some kind of loosening and opening up [before the election], but exactly the opposite is happening," says an analyst in Tehran who could not be named for fear of retribution. "It comes from a panicky feeling that things are breaking apart."

"The Islamic Republic has had a lot of elections, every year ... and all of a sudden this became so sensitive," says the analyst. "What is so different about it this time? It is not so clear, [except] that infighting has grown bigger and bigger."

1540 GMT: Social Media Watch. Fars reports that the Working Group for the Determination of Criminal Content, responsible for Internet censorship inside Iran, has ruled that online activism calling for the boycott or reduced participation in June’s Presidential election, protests, sit-ins, or strikes is illegal.

1535 GMT: Is Ahmadinejad Finished?. Golnaz Esfandiari of Radio Free Europe follows up developments --- such as the President's speech on Sunday, with its effective declaration of the election campaign of his ally Esfandiar Rahim-Mashai, and the attack on Speaker of Parliament Ali Larijani --- to assess Ahmadinejad's future:

Analysts suggest the president is worried about his future and the future of his close aides once his presidency ends. The president has threatened to reveal damaging files believed to have been obtained last year when he fired an intelligence minister who was a an ally of Khamenei, and who was quickly reinstated by the supreme leader. The February 10 disruption of Larijani's speech in Qom and the allegations of corruption against him and his brothers is seen as a warning by Ahmadinejad that he will not go down without a fight.

Journalist [Mohammad Hossein] Ziya says the bold moves by Ahmadinejad and his recent speech appear to suggest that "his hands are full." "There have been rumors that while Ahmadinejad was in charge of the Intelligence Ministry he gained access to important documents," he says. "I think we're seeing the correctness of those rumors in the events of the past two weeks, particularly in Ahmadinejad's policy of attack."

[Scott] Lucas, however, considers Ahmadinejad "finished" and believes he might be bluffing. "If I've got a weak hand, sometimes the worst thing to do is simply to fold the hand and give way," the analyst says. "Instead I'm going to pretend I've got a really strong hand to take this as far as I can and make my opponents back down."

Both analysts believe that Khamenei is likely to continue his strategy of containment when it comes to the combative president. Ahmadinejad's next move is more difficult to predict.

1335 GMT: Nuclear Watch. Claimed footage of more than 100 Ahmadinejad supporters shouting down Speaker of Parliament Ali Larijani on Sunday, forcing him to abandon his speech on the anniversary of the Revolution:

1325 GMT: Nuclear Watch. Foreign Ministry spokesman Ramin Mehmanparast has confirmed a report that Iran has resumed conversion of some of its 20% enriched uranium into fuel plates, which can only be used in a civilian programme.

The International Atomic Energy Agency reported last August that Tehran had converted almost half of its 20% stock, but while Iran gradually increased its 20% fuel in the autumn, conversion was halted for unknown reasons.

Reuters reported on Sunday from unnamed "diplomats" that a "small amount" of 20% uranium had recently been converted into fuel plates. The article gave no further details, nor did Mehmanparast in his statement today.

1215 GMT: The House Arrests. Mohammad Karroubi, the son of detained opposition leader Mehdi Karroubi, has spoken of his father's house arrest and the pressure on the family.

On Monday, Hossein Karroubi, another of Mehdi Karroubi's sons, was detained and interrogated for nine hours. The daughters of opposition leaders Mir Hossein Mousavi and Zahra Rahnavard were also seized in raids on their homes and held for hours.

Mohammad Kharroubi, a scholar of international law who lives in London, said the detentions were a regime's reaction to its difficulties:

The situation in Iran is not good at all regarding the economy as well as the political situation … They are so afraid that when [Mousavi and Mehdi Karroubi] are [let] back into the society, if they started to talk and criticize the system, the government doesn’t have enough confidence to tolerate that.

Mohammad Karroubi expressed concern about the physical and mental well-being of his father, held for two years under strict house arrest and now kept in a small apartment in a former office building in north Tehran:

In the last four months, he has not seen the sun or smelled fresh air apart from three times when they [security forces] took him to the hospital [for tests for digestive problems]. There is no garden where can go and walk … It is not house arrest. In his house, he could have access to his library, the radio — even the kitchen.

The authorities have permitted Karroubi’s wife to bring him home-cooked food but that is the only relief from isolation, his son said.

0815 GMT: Trade Watch. The opposition site Kalemeh reports that the export of automobile parts has fallen by 96%, with a total of less than $2 million between March and January.

0745 GMT: Election Watch. Bahar daily has given a boost today to President Ahmadinejad's right-hand man Esfandiar Rahim-Mashai, a possible candidate in the June Presidential election. The newspaper hailed his public appearance, "He came out like the sun."

0705 GMT: Economy Watch. Journalist Azadeh Moaveni passes on an example of the economic difficulties for Iranians, with the Toman near its all-time low of 4000:1 vs. the US dollar:

0659 GMT: The House Arrests. United Nations human rights officials have called on Iran to release hundreds of political prisoners and lift the house arrests of opposition leaders Mehdi Karroubi, Mir Hossein Mousavi, and Zahra Rahnavard.

Ahmad Shaheed, the UN's Special Rapporteur for Human Rights in Iran, noted that as a party to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, the Iranian Government is “obliged to protect the civil liberties of all its citizens", including the rights to be protected against arbitrary detention, to be informed of any charges against them, to be given access to legal counsel, and to face an independent and impartial tribunal.

The Special Rapporteur on the rights to freedom of peaceful assembly and of association, Maina Kiai, reminded the Iranian authorities of their international obligations guaranteeing the rights to free expression, free association, and peaceful assembly:

Such rights are essential components of democracy and are all the more relevant in the context of Iran’s upcoming presidential elections, to be held next June.

It is of the utmost importance that members of civil society, including the media and human rights defenders, as well as political activists, be given greater space to avail themselves of these rights.

0654 GMT: Sanctions Watch. The US Government has announced sanctions on a Chinese businessman and several companies for selling banned items to Iran.

The Government notice said Li Fangwei,named on three occasions since 2006 for supplying material and support to Iran's missile development, and Dalian Sunny Industries "have engaged in missile technology proliferation activities that require the imposition of missile sanctions".

A separate sanction notice listed Li, Dalian Sunny, and three other Chinese firms, including Poly Technologies Incorporated, for violations of the Iran, North Korea, and Syria Nonproliferation Act.

The other two Chinese firms, BST Technology and Trade Company and China Precision Machinery Import and Export Corporation (CPMIEC), were on a list that also included companies from Belarus, Iran, Sudan, Syria and Venezuela.

0640 GMT: The Detained Opposition Leaders. After eight days of high-profile political tension, the regime finally put the spotlight elsewhere on Monday, seizing the children of detained opposition leaders Mir Hossein Mousavi, Zahra Rahnavard, and Mehdi Karroubi.

Security forces raided the homes of the two daughters of Mousavi and Rahnavard, searching the premises for three hours and taking the women to Evin  Prison for interrogation. News later emerged that Mohammad Hossein Karroubi, the eldest son of Karroubi, was detained and questioned for nine hours.

All three were released, but the point had been made. The two-year anniversary of the strict house arrest of the opposition leaders is this week. Far from considering their release, as has been suggested by some conservative politicians, the regime had put out another message: "We can pressure not only you but your families as long as we want, and if you do not 'repent' for your crimes, that is what will happen."

Mousavi, a former Prime Minister, was the main challenger to Mahmoud Ahmadinejad in the 2009 Presidential election, in which Karroubi was also a candidate. Mousavi's wife Rahnavard is a prominent activist and academic.

Mousavi and Rahnavard's daughters had publicly expressed concern that they have been blocked for months from seeing their parents and that there was inadequate health care for the detainees.

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